Monday, August 29, 2011

Edgy Fiction or More of the Same Old Same Old by Linda Glaz

The words edgy fiction are being tossed about like a marble on a teeter totter. I was recently given a work to proofread and was told I would enjoy it because it was “edgy fiction”. I read it; it was a wonderful romance, albeit formulaic. So where was the edgy?

Ah hah! I finally figured out what the author and publisher thought was edgy.

A lot more sex filled the pages. Is that edgy or is that just plain old secular?

Don’t panic. There’s no right or wrong answer to that question. You won’t be given a test. But think about it. Are we in the inspy market simply leaning more toward secular when we call our work edgy or are we jumping on the secular wagon and riding off into the sunset, guns drawn, bustiers showing, and kisses as well as other body parts flying here and there?

Okay, a bit melodramatic, but you get my point.

What defines edgy for you?

For me, it’s an author willing to push the limits of his/her genre. Takes steps no one else has. For romance, it means stepping outside the traditional formula and bringing a wonderful romance that might or might not have a happy ending.

Love Story anyone? There’s hardly a woman who lived in the seventies who didn’t read/watch that romance. I can’t tell you all that I read back then, but I can tell you almost scene for scene what happened to Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw’s love. For the story’s time, IT WAS EDGY!

As an inspy writer, do you merely throw in a bit more sex, violence, or **shudder** a couple obscenities and call that edgy? Or do you dare delve into difficult topics that might bring thought-provoking interest to your work?

This is an issue very dear to my heart.

You will hear more on it.


Daphne Michele Webb said...

Well, when I saw your comment about body parts flying, I pictured arms and legs sailing into the air to land everwhichaway on the ground. :o) Disembodied body parts?
Edgy? I agree with you, it's pushing the limits but staying with the Christian boundary. Touching topics from which most veer/shy away. Christian fiction must Not Be Of This World (aka read like secular).

Naomi Musch said...

Great topic and questions, Joyce. I agree about the loose use of the word "edgy" these days. I prefer the edginess to be built into theme itself - especially when the theme revolves around Christians who get caught in sin or larger-than-life situations. This, to me, doesn't require sexier scenes or coarser language. I think some early Christian fiction tended to side-stepped the we-still-sin aspect of the Christian life. Now we are freer to address the fact that people don't just get saved in CF, they also get sanctified. They fall away, and God brings them back. And sometimes they don't come back. It's just "getting real" so to speak. Who can forget older CF that succeeded at this before it was cool to be edgy? Francine Rivers's Redeeming Love, or the Thoenes' Zion series where evil was confronted but not always successfully are good examples. I think there've been those breakout Christian novels that have been edgy in this way. Their style is good to emulate.

Rick Barry said...

My impression is that some Christian authors consider their work edgy when they dare to throw away Ephesians 5:12 ("For it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret" NASB) and openly describe sordid activity in full, lurid detail. However, I would consider it more "edgy" to lift the reader out of her comfy living room and to plop her into, say, a tension-filled, gritty environment in some crumbling inner-city apartment. Still, an edgy story doesn't necessarily betoken a good story.

Janny said...

When I think "edgy" stories, I tend to think stories that "walk an edge": romantic suspense, maybe a crime story or a deeply emotional trip, an element of danger, a situation in which faith is tested and maybe even other words, something that actually TAKES us to one of the "edges" in our lives and brings us through it. Something that may deal with a topic we don't want to look at...something that may make us a little uncomfortable or challenge us. But the bottom line is, it's still gotta be a good read, or it fails on multiple levels, "edgy" or not.

I think the desperate craving many of us seem to have to call our books "edgy" also represents an attempt to break out of Christian fiction boxes...and that's a good thing. However, calling something "edgy" just because of a certain sensuality level not only misses the point but puts the story firmly in ANOTHER box, one we may not want to be in for our entire careers!

But bottom line, could we please quit identifying anything that violates our personal "taboo" lists (whatever those are) as being "secular"? It's as if when a Christian sees something in a book that offends her, she simply says, "Oh, that's a SECULAR touch," and dismisses the book and the writer as being lost, with all the accompanying condescension and/or pity. Please. God didn't create two worlds, one sacred and one secular. We all live in secular society...we just need to know how to live, and how to tell stories, in a way that's true to whatever story is begging to get out. If STORY ruled Christian fiction rather than--as is so often the case--MESSAGE ruling it, we wouldn't even need to have someone tell us what "edgy" was...we'd already be writing it, and enjoying the trip.

My two cents,

Linda Glaz said...

Janny, I couldn't agree more. You really hit the proverbial nail. It's time we stood up to tell stories about real life. And when a story is good, it can take us places outside our comfort zones and some characters MIGHT find redemption, some might not, but the story is real. One thing that drives me crazy in a Christian romance is a guy with watered-down internal. Let you male characters think and react like men, and that's often gritty. And...real. And I agree further that a wonderful CF doesn't have to preach. If the message is there, it's obvious without the sermon. And then it can reach outside the CF readership where it's truly needed. Whew, great comments, folks, all of them. Nice to know we don't stand alone on the topic!

Katherine Hyde said...

I don't refer to my own work as "edgy," though some people might because it deals with real people in real situations. What Christian fiction needs more than "edginess," whatever that means, is authenticity. Regardless of the genre or subject matter, stories need to tap into the deep universal truths of human nature instead of skating along on the surface, as too much Christian fiction tends to do. Putting the message before the story is one reason for this; being unwilling to face the deep brokenness of all people, including Christians, is another; and the idea that Christian fiction should do no more than entertain is a third.

Sharon A. Lavy said...

I thought edgy in CBA was writers willing to tackle tough subjects, not writing more graphic and secular scenes.

Readers of CBA should be assured of a clean read, but yes sometimes we need to be taken out of our comfort zone so that we can grow spiritually and be better used by our God and Maker.

Timothy Fish said...

I seldom use the term edgy because there are so many differing opinions about what it is. I would hesitate to call a romance without a happy ending an edgy romance because romance is so clearly defined and the happy ending is part of what defines a romance. Besides, there are other kinds of books that seem to fit that description.

I do think that there is a growing trend with Christians becoming more and more worldly. That isn’t a good thing. I think a lot of people are redefining their work as edgy because they want to avoid the negative connotations of calling it secular or worldly.

Heather Marsten said...

Perhaps there needs to be a rating system, so readers know what to expect when they pick up a book. And it depends on what market the author is trying to reach - some Christians don't balk at "edgy"; others want to stay away from anything that hints of the secular lifestyle.

The memoir I'm writing is intended to reach those who are hurting from abuse or the new age - and I am struggling with this issue.

I once saw an episode on TV called - "Things you can't unsee (sic) "- and it is true some of the things the people did in that show remain in my memory.

With Christian Fiction or other books there are some who are very careful what enters their eye-gate and there is no need to be "edgy" or secular to write a good love story with redemptive value.

My memoir, covers incest and a series of occult groups I joined when I rebelled against God. Ultimately God orchestrated all the things I did to bring me to Him and salvation.

I am writing about the abuse in detail (not graphic, but not hinted at either), and while I don't put all the ceremonies in, I am including enough of the occult experience that the readers know that I have knowledge. I am praying that when I get to the turning point of salvation, those in the new age will give me enough credibility to see the reasoning behind my choice of turning to God.

I am not certain where my book fits. It could be Christian because it is a salvation testimony. It could also reach the secular market but they may not like the part about Jesus. I am just writing and praying.

My pastor's wife wants me to give more details for she says many Christians do not know how to minister to those in the new age, and facts will help. On Critique Circle I have a following of Christians rooting for me to reach salvation (they know I'm Christian), and new agers who debate their traditions with me (they don't know I'm a Christian for I write in first person - yet if they read the book's summary they would surmise that. I am building a relationship with them and praying for I am a few chapters away from salvation).

It is a fine line between edgy and secular. There are no easy answers.